In a nutshell: Central Maui is the isthmus between West Maui and Haleakala. It is also where most business gets done on Maui. Visitors will pass through here several times, usually on the way to somewhere else.
Minuses: The Pu’unene Sugar Mill spewing smoke from its stacks into the blue sky sure is a buzzkill.
Sound-bite: “OMG, OGG!”
Central Maui is where Maui’s business gets done. The Kahului Airport and Harbor are where all our “stuff” (and people) come in. The Maui County government, Costco, WalMart, two protected wetlands and ‘Iao Valley…just to name a few of the many reasons you might end up in Central Maui on purpose. Like most of the island, there are also several absolutely spectacular beaches here – including the beach where kitesurfing was born.
Central Maui is comprised largely of the isthmus between West Maui and Haleakala. Kahului and Wailuku are the largest towns in this area. Most visitors will fly in to the Kahului airport.
While it is largely not a tourist destination in and of itself, Central Maui is a hub virtually every visitor will (and must) pass through several times. Traveling from either of the resort areas (West and South Maui) to any other region of Maui requires passing through Central Maui.
Central Maui has several main highways crossing through it, many of which you’re bound to find yourself on. Practically every visitor will take Airport Road, which turns into Dairy Road (Hwy 380) to the junction of 380 & 311. If you are staying in West Maui, you’ll continue on 380 (which becomes the Kuihelani Highway here) to the other side of the central valley. South Maui visitors will take the Mokulele Highway (Hwy 311) from the junction. If you happen to be one of the few lucky folks staying in on the North Shore, Upcountry or Road to Hana regions, you’ll be exiting Central Maui sooner, and by hanging a left onto Hana Highway (Hwy 36) at the K-Mart on Dairy Road.
Ma’alaia Harbor, the Maui Ocean Center and ‘Iao Valley are among the main tourist attractions in Central Maui – but many visitors will find themselves shopping at one of the big box stores, supermarkets or Central Maui’s only two-story shopping mall, the Ka’ahumanu Center. (Don’t be tempted to avoid trying to pronounce Ka’ahumanu by calling it the “Maui Mall” – especially if you’re asking for directions – there is a shopping center/strip mall just a bit down the same road with that very name.)
For more specific information on Central Maui, browse the Central Maui category.